Gift fairs are back as Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle returns to the MCEC

The recent Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle Fair was the first physical gift fair since Covid hit Australia in March 2020.

Held from 20 to 22 March 2021 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the gift industry came together once again to showcase and discover new products, see old friends and make some new ones.

With retailers and wholesalers eager to get back to business, we chatted to some exhibitors about their gift fair experience.

Inga Carlmark, Finmark sales manager

What new products did you launch at the fair?

Finmark was thrilled to release its 2021 Everyday Counter Rolls of gift wrapping paper at the fair.

Sweden produced an absolutely beautiful range of papers this year so it was fantastic to be able to show them to businesses. Printed on matte, gloss and kraft finishes, the Gift & Lifestyle fair allowed businesses to touch and feel and see the true colours of the range.

With a focus on sustainability and environmental products, Finmark also launched new items in its range of bio-degradable ribbons including jute, twine and paper bands.

Whilst we have supported our customers with phone calls, brochures and an updated website, there is nothing like the face to face communication of a gift fair and to see the range of products on show.

Why did you decide to exhibit at the fair and what was the feedback?

Based in Adelaide and without agents or representatives, Finmark has attended the traditional Melbourne February Fair for over 30 years, it’s a vital part of our business.

We have come into a year of unknowns but we decided it was important to exhibit to remind customers we are here if they need us and for us to have an important catch-up with the industry.

The gift fairs work in two ways―they are helpful for the retailers to see new products and ask questions, but as a supplier it’s our chance to talk to retailers about how things are going, which products are selling and  what is missing from the market.

Within three days you come back to the office inspired, excited and engaged.

There was an overall feel of happiness and gratitude at the fair and to be able to connect with customers again was wonderful. We all couldn’t believe we were actually there. It was such a busy and exciting three days and we were so grateful to be back at gift fairs.

What else can we expect from Finmark in 2021?

2020 presented us with new challenges that we took on. It gave us an opportunity to support our customers in new ways such as YouTube videos, sending samples and producing brochures. 

We will continue in these new avenues but also look forward to some of the familiar ways in 2021, exhibiting at Reed Gift Fairs Sydney and Reed Gift Fairs Melbourne and continuing to personally call each customer.

Lee Drury, CEO & founder, Glass on the Grass

Did you launch any new products at the gift fair?

We launched two new products at the show. Glass on the Grass Bamboo is perfect for alfresco dining at home. Like our signature resin coasters they slide on your wine glass to stabilise it on any outdoor surface.

We also launched ShooFly, our new eco food covers made from recycled water bottles and weighted eco linen. Both products were a hit and sit well with our signature range in store.

Why did you decide to exhibit at the fair and what was it like?

We wanted to be part of the solution. Expertise Events and ExpoNet, the organiser and stand building company, have both been relentless in lobbying government to get trade shows up and running, so when they got the green light we jumped on board. 

While the show was smaller than pre-Covid, we had a great show. We met many fabulous retailers who are thrilled to be gearing up for Easter school holidays, Anzac Day long weekend and of course Mother's Day with our eco-friendly products as part of their offering.

What else can we expect from Glass on the Grass in 2021?

With a renewed love of entertaining outdoors all year round, our products are perfect for the Australian lifestyle. With new textiles and colourways underway we are in for a great year, and come spring time there will be another new addition to the Glass on the Grass family.

Iain Marr, national sales manager, Cotton Candy Imports

Tell us more about the new products you launched at Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle?  

We released our Christmas 2021 range with over 300 new products which has been very well received. We also launched a new garden range of products based on the mythical Treant, fairy night lights and solar houses, mermaids and Fancy Pals.

What was your main reason to exhibit at the fair? 

We wanted to get our products back in front of our customers and to open new avenues for distribution.

Will you be doing more trade fairs in 2021? 

We are planning on doing the new Gold Coast Fair in July, followed by Melbourne August and then Sydney September, all going well. We will also be releasing new products ranges throughout the year.

James Boardman, founder, Alcoholder

What new products did you launch at the fair?

We launched plenty of new products including TANKD, a 475ml insulated mug with handle; TACTICOOL, the ultimate 8 in 1 pen tool; and squish, stemless silicone wine tumblers.

Why did you decide to exhibit at the fair and what was the feedback?

The decision to exhibit was a little bit spur of the moment, but seeing as though we hadn't exhibited in over 12 months, we figured we'd use the show as a bit of a barometer of what to expect for what's next on the calendar.

Exhibiting in a state that has been subject to the tightest and longest lockdowns in the country really gave us some perspective, and helped set our expectations. The feedback from retailers was positive for the most part. The general consensus was that people were keen to get the ball rolling again and were delighted that we had made the effort to exhibit. There were some comments criticising how small the event was, but in reality it is up to brands like us to take the risk and exhibit.

What else does Alcoholder have in the pipeline for 2021?

As usual we have some new products that are currently in the development phase that will be ready for release in Q3. While we can't share any of the specifics of them, it is predominately feedback from our retailers that drives our next product releases. As always, the focus is on alcohol holding.

Michelle Hartjes, founder & owner, Bespoke Packaging

Did you launch any new products at the fair?

We launched our Premier Stamps at the Gift & Lifestyle show, which are perfect for stamping your packaging, bags, products and so much more. The quality of the impression is amazing and runs circles around the older style stamps that use an ink pad. This is the largest premier stamp at 130x95mm.

Why did you decide to exhibit at Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle?

We wanted to get back to business after this crazy long time, we really missed the conversations and being able to show customers everything we do. We have so much to offer to many different types of businesses and when they can visually see what we do, as well as being able to touch the products, this really helps.

Bespoke Packaging has plans to exhibit at several more gift shows on the East Coast this year, with exciting new products to be launched at each fair.

Gail Bouchard, director, Next Generation Homewares

Tell us more about the new products you showcased at the fair?

We have just released our Marcus & Marcus new easy grip cutlery sets, which are made from 304 stainless steel. They have a finger indent designed handle made from food grade soft textured silicone, making it more suitable for smaller hands. Our new self-training 360 silicone toothbrushes are perfect for toddlers to start learning to take care of their own oral care. Further new releases this year include children’s lunch boxes and 100% organic certified baby skin care range from Canada.

Why was it important to exhibit at the Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle fair?

Our company’s many base is in Victoria and considering the industry hadn’t had a trade show for 12 months we thought it was a good opportunity to start reconnecting with customers again and exposing our new Marcus & Marcus products. 

It was a pity not more wholesalers and retailers supported the trade show. I personally think the state government’s suddenly opening and closing boarders put business off participating. I’m happy we exhibited, we were able to attract a number of new customers who may not have noticed our Marcus & Marcus children’s range previously. It’s easy to get lost amongst the larger exhibitors at bigger trade shows when you’re a smaller exhibitor.

ExpoNet and  Expertise Events brought back some of the old personal touches to the show, the staff were constantly present on the floor to assist and answered questions with a smile, it was great to be back at a trade show event. 

Gary Davis, director, Get Posh

What new products did you launch at the Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle Fair?

We launched our 2021 Posh Christmas range along with a new range for Mother’s Day and our continuation of our Man Cave range.

Why did you exhibit at the fair and what was the feedback?

We made the decision to exhibit to help kick-start the industry following Covid. We went into the fair with no high expectations and were very pleased with the result. The response from retailers was great as they all wanted to get back to face to face contact with trade fairs.

Will Get Posh be attending more trade fairs in 2021?

Get Posh will be exhibiting at all five Australian trade fairs in 2021 and the two Gift & Jewellery Trade days by Expertise Events, so we’re hoping for a busy year. We also do the NZ gift fairs.

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